These take advantage of innocent seniors who believe the government is helping them… and the Inspector General has determined that it’s all perfectly legal.
The Department of Health and Human Services has given qualified approval for a Medicare provider to give away $20 grocery gift cards to induce seniors to get more taxpayer-funded health screenings, despite concerns the promotion could run afoul of federal anti-kickback laws. The HHS inspector general, the agency’s internal watchdog, gave the OK in a little-noticed advisory opinion earlier this year, declaring it would not punish the provider’s good intentions even if the giveaway strayed into questionable legal territory.
“The goal of the gift card program was to incentivize patients to receive health screenings and other clinical services,” the inspector general wrote. “… Although the Proposed Arrangement could potentially generate prohibited remuneration under the anti-kickback statute if the requisite intent to induce or reward referrals of Federal health care program business were present, the Office of Inspector General would not impose administrative sanctions.”…
What the reporter failed to report is that those “screenings” are not medically or scientifically credible and are simply ways to bring in enormous profits for special interests, primarily drug companies, diet companies, etc.
Seniors are being called up by their managed care plans (Medicare providers) and herded in to have “free” physicals. Many seniors are led to believe they must comply and are given an appointment date and time they are expected to appear. What’s going on is that beginning this year, Medicare now reimburses for an annual “preventive wellness” visit. Managed care companies, contracted to provide Medicare services (Kaiser, Aetna, etc) can now get money for an annual “preventive wellness visit”… but Medicare coverage is only when the exam is “in accordance with accepted preventive care.” These are not actual physicals as the public might believe. They include a “health risk assessment” (questionnaire of social and lifestyle habits, and measurements of BMI, blood pressure, lipids and glucose), a wellness plan and counseling recommendations. None of these have been shown to improve health outcomes but behind each mandate is a special interest making enormous profits from them. When a number doesn’t comply with a government guideline, a prescription is written, whether or not it is in the best interests of the patient. It’s a massive data collection effort… seniors’ information is collected mostly by technicians in an assembly-line fashion and put in the governments electronic database for targeted surveillance.
Seniors are not examined, for example, on mobility problems or risks for falls, hearing or vision problems, cognitive function, safety, respiratory difficulties, checked for skin cancers, etc . Even more outrageous, millions of seniors will find themselves hit with large bills and copays because they didn’t understand the fine print. Should a senior mention any health concern to their provider during the exam, suddenly the visit, as well as any tests and prescriptions, fall outside the free check-up. As Medicare provider handbooks note, “any nonpreventive services you receive during or after the visit will incure regular medical cost-sharing.”